The Best TVs and Projectors of IFA 2017

OLED dominates whilst QLED waits in the wings

by Steve Withers Sep 4, 2017 at 10:12 AM

  • As a trade show IFA is undoubtedly important, providing manufacturers, retailers and consumers with a chance to view a huge range of consumer electronics products.
    However the European show’s importance in terms of TVs and projectors is diminished, partly because it comes late in the year but primarily because CES is now the preeminent consumer electronics event. Arriving in early January, CES provides manufacturers with a chance to launch their latest products in Las Vegas, essentially laying out a road map for the year ahead. However some manufacturers do like to hold a few products back for the premier European event, especially those with little presence in the US. This has certainly been the case with both Philips and Panasonic, whilst Sony have traditionally used IFA as a platform to launch their latest projector line-up.
    This year’s event was something of a mixed bag, with many of the more established names offering very little in the way of new product. LG had a large stand but in terms of AV there was absolutely nothing new on show, with the Korean manufacturer instead wowing attendees with their W7 wallpaper OLED TV. They also had plenty of other OLED panels on their stand and numerous displays detailing their support for High Dynamic Range – specifically HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision. It’s been a good year for LG so we can’t really blame them for celebrating – OLED has achieved a much higher degree of consumer awareness, production yields are up, prices are down and the company has significantly increased its market share. Despite the obvious emphasis on OLED, LG haven't forgotten LCD and were also demonstrating their Nano Cell technology, where ultra slim and borderless designs were the priority.
    The success of OLED as a TV technology was evident by the number of other manufacturers who were launching their own OLED models or announcing additional screen sizes to existing ranges. Philips are certainly embracing OLED in a big way, having already launched the 55-inch POS901F model at last year’s IFA and followed it up with the 55-inch 9002. The latter model will be in stores later this month with a new 65-inch version to arrive towards the end of the fourth quarter. The 55-inch 9002 will retail for £2,000 but pricing has yet to be announced on the 65-inch model. Philips also announced the new 9 Series OLED which will arrive in a 65-inch screen size and include the P5 Perfect Picture processing engine, Ultra HD Premium certification, HDR support, three-sided Ambilight, Android TV, Quad Core processing and a 6.1-channel sound system built into the stand. The new 9 Series will hit stores late in the first quarter of next year.
    Whilst Philips’s emphasis was definitely on OLED they are also getting into the QLED market with their new 8602 flagship LEC LCD TV. This model will come in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes and includes Quantum Dot technology for increased peak brightness and a wider colour gamut, the P5 Perfect Picture processing engine, Ultra HD Premium certification, HDR support, three-sided Ambilight, Android TV, Quad Core processing and an integrated floating sound bar that follows Philips’s Visible Sound concept. Although pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet, we can expect to see the 8602 later in the fourth quarter.
    Philips weren’t the only manufacturer with a new OLED model or an expanded line-up. Bang & Olufsen joined the party with their new BeoVision Eclipse OLED TV. This was made in partnership with LG and is essentially an LG OLED TV with B&O’s design and a 450 watt, three-channel SoundCentre. As such the Eclipse includes LG’s excellent WebOS 3.5 and it supports HDR, including HLG and Dolby Vision. The BeoVision Eclipse will be available from retailers in September but at a hefty price, with the 55-inch model costing £8,290 and the 65-inch version setting you back a whopping £11,590.
    An old name but a new one in the OLED market was Toshiba, which is returning to the European market thanks to a partnership with Turkish TV giant Vestel. It’s certainly good news to hear that Toshiba will be back in UK stores and they were keen to stress that the new TVs weren’t just branded Vestel units but had actually been developed with the full cooperation of Toshiba in Japan. The new Toshiba X98 OLED TV will be available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes and uses a new borderless design, along with High Dynamic Range support, including HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.
    Toshiba will also be launching two new LED LCD TV ranges – the U6 which will come in 43-,49-,55-, 65- and 75-inch screen sizes and and the U7 which will come in 49- and 55-inch screen sizes. The company also had a number of concept TVs on show and are busy developing borderless LED LCD models, as well as an ultra-thin model that they call their ‘Poster TV’. These LED LCD TVs have all the connections, electronics and speakers in a separate soundbar, allowing the ultra-thin panel to be fixed to the wall in a similar fashion to LG’s W7 Wallpaper TV. Toshiba also have a new smart platform for their TVs that not only uses the now fashionable launcher bar but will also include support for Amazon’s Alexa.

    Although neither Sony nor Panasonic had any actual new TV models to launch at IFA, they did announce larger screen sizes for their existing OLED TVs, which meant there are now 77-inch versions of Sony’s A1 and Panasonic’s EZ1002. We haven’t confirmed pricing on either model yet but it’s a safe bet they won’t be cheap. So overall there are now OLED TVs available from LG, Philips, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Loewe and Bang & Olufsen but what about the manufacturers that are still concentrating on LED LCD?
    Well Samsung had no new TV models to announce but, as far as QLED is concerned, the name appears to be catching on with both Philips and TCL using the acronym when referring to some of their TVs. Hisense are also keen on the possibilities of Quantum Dot and will be launching new models that include the technology in their own ULED range, as well as their official TV for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. They will finally be bringing their Laser TV to the UK market later this year, which means you’ll be able to get big screen entertainment for around £5,000. The Chinese manufacturer was also showing ultra-slim ‘Invisible Cable’ LED LCD concept models and, perhaps most interestingly, a prototype direct LED model with 1,000 dimming zones and a claimed peak brightness of 2,200nits.
    Toshiba aren’t the only Japanese manufacturer making a comeback, with Sharp also returning to the UK market. We met with UMC last year, just after they had bought the rights to the Sharp brand in Europe. Since then FoxConn had bought Sharp who in turn had bought UMC in order to have their own panel production capabilities. So it was a very different Sharp to last year and they had a number of new LED LCD TVs on show which, like many of the other TV manufacturers this year, emphasised a borderless and ultra-thin design. It would seem that OLED’s success has resulted in consumers rejecting TVs with deeper panels and as a result most LCD manufacturers are concentrating on edge-lit rather than direct LED models.
    Unsurprisingly Sharp’s main focus was on 8K, a technology with which the company is synonymous and a resolution that will be used to broadcast the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. As a result Sharp had the 70-inch X500E on show which is the world’s first consumer 8K compatible LCD monitor and will be available in March of 2018. Sharp have already released an 8K TV in Japan and China, where 8K broadcasts are a reality but for Europe and Taiwan there is no point including a tuner, which is why the X500E is a monitor. That does of course raise the question of from where exactly owners of the X500E will get 8K content but should they find any the monitor uses an ‘8K input terminal’ which, in the absence of any working HDMI 2.1 inputs, is composed of four HDMI 2.0 inputs. It’s safe to say that outside of Japan and possibly China, 8K won’t be a reality in our living rooms any time soon.
    In fact the industry is still struggling to roll out 4K and whilst the resolution is ubiquitous in TVs these days, native 4K projectors are still quite rare. In fact aside from JVC’s Z1, Sony are the only manufacturer to offer genuine native 4K projectors. As we mentioned earlier, Sony traditionally launch their latest projector line-up at IFA and, true to form, the Japanese manufacturer had three new models on show.
    The VW260ES is an attempt to offer native 4K projection at a lower price point and to combat competition from JVC, Epson and the new 4K DLP projectors. Whilst none of these models are native 4K they offer a comparable resolution at any sensible viewing distance and are often superior in other respects and cost significantly less than Sony’s previous native 4K projectors. The VW260 not only includes a native 4K SXRD panel but it also supports HDR10 and HLG, has a claimed brightness of 1,500 lumens and includes Reality Creation and TRILUMINOS technology. The VW260 is available now and should cost around £5,000.
    Sony have also launched the VW360ES, which wasn't at the show but adds an advanced dynamic iris and a picture positioning memory for multiple aspect ratios. However the big news at IFA was the launch of the VW760ES laser 4K projector, which is available in November and will cost around £15,000. Whilst that might sound like a lot, it’s significantly less than the JVC Z1 which costs £35,000 or Sony’s own VW5000ES which costs £50,000. The VW760 has a claimed brightness of 2,000 lumens and, along with all the features found on the VW260 and VW360, benefits from the use of a laser light source. Sony had a pre-production model on show which they claimed was “about 80% finished” but they also said there was still some work to do on the contrast performance. The demo of the trailers for Blade Runner 2049 and Passengers certainly looked good with plenty of detail and a wide colour gamut. However, as is often the case with projectors, the HDR lacked the impact of a TV and the black floor was elevated but it was still an impressive 4K image.
    Sony didn’t have the projector space entirely to themselves with Optoma showing their own laser projector in the shape of the UHZ65. This 4K DLP projector isn’t native 4K but it does deliver a higher resolution than 1080p and it also has a claimed brightness of 3,000 lumens. The UHZ65 will be available later in the year and will probably cost around £5,000.
    Finally JVC announced a new projector to celebrate the 20 years since the company first developed their D-ILA (Direct-Drive Image Light Amplifier) technology. The DLA-20LTD is in the works and, along with being a limited edition model, will also come in JVC’s corporate colour – which is bright red. JVC also announced the X9900, the X7900 and the X5900, all of which are iterations of their existing projector line-up. The new projectors will include the fifth generation of JVC’s e-shift technology but also a gamma adjustment function that can adjust HDR images depending on the viewing environment.
    So there you have it, not exactly a classic IFA show but still plenty of announcements and some interesting new products in the pipeline. However the show will ultimately be remembered as the year that OLED reached mass market appeal but LCD won’t be giving up its dominance without a fight and quantum dot is waiting in the wings.

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